Startup Diaries: An Unconventional Change of Direction

Susanna Scouller talks to The NextWomen about how her change of career direction came about in a rather unconventional way.

At some point in our lives, we all need to take a moment and ask ourselves the question: ‘Am I really happy?’ Much of the time, the answer to that question will be an internal struggle between knowing what would make us truly happy and fulfilling what we think is expected of us.

For much of my early working life, I felt as though my career was going exactly how I wanted it to go. However, I was about to experience something so unexpected that was to change my career completely, and eventually for the better.

During my early twenties, I worked in the television and film industry in London following a year long stint living in Paris and working at the offices of American Vogue. My life felt very glamorous and it seemed as though I was well on my way to what I thought was my dream career.

In 1994 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which at the time was a huge bombshell to my life. Although it was a mild case, I had to take it seriously, and at the time I experienced frequent pain in my neck and shoulders, which was often severe. Things that used to be simple like turning my head suddenly became near impossible as the muscles around my shoulders became rock hard.

After receiving limited support from my doctors I felt as though I needed to look elsewhere if I had any hope of leading a normal, pain-free life. It was time to turn to alternative health options, firstly starting with my diet - cutting out junk food, and then visiting psychotherapists, reflexologists and masseuses, but they all seemed like short-term relief to a long-term problem. I saw an osteopath who helped the most in reducing the pain significantly, however the pain would always return.

It was during a yoga class that a friend recommended the Alexander Technique. I had vaguely heard of the technique before but hadn’t really considered it when searching for a solution to the MS.

I decided to take the plunge and booked a lesson the next day- the results were immediate and outstanding to say the least.

The technique directly re-established my overall balance and eased unnecessary tension by improved postural habits, and most importantly at the time, eased the constant pain I was experiencing.

I took my initial Alexander Technique lessons with the highly regarded Noël Kingsley, and was turned onto the Constructive Teaching Centre where I would spend the next three years training to be a teacher of the Alexander Technique.

This change of direction in terms of my career was something that I could never have predicted.

Nineteen years on from my diagnosis of MS and I see between five and eight students per day from all different walks of life at the various centres I work from.

I began my teaching career at the Pimlico Centre for the Alexander Technique; the only centre established solely for the purpose of teaching the Alexander Technique to the general public- other centres tends to double as teacher training schools. I was asked to join the team of teachers by James Harwood, who set up the centre in 2006. Moreton Street is one of the London streets where the council rules that all ground floor premises have to be run as businesses with a shop front, so a lot of our custom comes from the fact that we're easy to see when you walk by.

There are eight of us teaching there at different times, and three separate teaching rooms, so when all three rooms are being used, it has great energy.

At all times, our clients say the space has a great sense of calm, which works well as we aim for our clients to leave us calmer than they were when they arrived.

A typical lesson lasts 45 minutes and is on a one to one basis in a relaxed and friendly environment. Many people find that they become extremely relaxed, as I usually split the lesson between table work and chair work; something that differs for each teacher. The aim of the lesson is assess what each pupil is there to achieve, before teaching them the Alexander Technique in a way that relates to their individual habits and can be applied to their everyday lives.

Being able to teach something that I love to others is an indescribable feeling, and one that I never would have discovered where it not for being diagnosed with MS.

I truly believe that my life took a turn for the better and I now enjoy my job every day, helping others to help themselves.

Although I found my dream career in a rather unconventional way, my top tips for making a drastic career change are:

  1. It’s corny, but follow your heart regardless of how it looks or how scary it seems.
  2. Get the best possible training, if you’re re-training.
  3. Gather the right support from the people you know will be there for you.
  4. Believe in what you do and the self-belief will increase with experience.
  5. Get experience as soon as you can, even if it means working for free or for little pay.

Susanna Scouller is a teacher of the Alexander Technique based at The Pimlico Centre. For more information or to get in touch for advice on how the Alexander Technique can help you, please visit her website.

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